What is it like to return to Switzerland from a country at risk?

The Local has published many articles on rules pertaining to travel to high-risk nations, as well as the conditions of the return to Switzerland. Today we’d like to share the experience of one of our readers, who just came back from the United States.

What is it like to return to Switzerland from a country at risk?
Quarantine is required when arriving from a country at risk. Photo by AFP

A dual American/Swiss citizen, Robert M. went to the US in July to visit family. He used his US passport and could enter the country with no problems.

“On arrival there was no mention of any locally required quarantine. They just took my temperature and gave me a leaflet about Covid-19 prevention. I was out the airport in 20 minutes”.

On his return trip from Miami this weekend, the American passport didn’t suffice.

“The check-in agent at the airport asked me if I also have a Schengen passport. She said that without it, I couldn’t take the flight as I’d not be allowed into Switzerland”, Robert said.

That is in line with the regulations issued by Swiss authorities prohibiting United States residents from coming to Switzerland due to America’s soaring Covid-19 infection rate.

The same ban is in place in many other EU states. 

A total of 41 other nations are on Switzerland's list as well.

The only travellers from the US authorised to enter Switzerland are Swiss citizens and permanent residents returning home. Robert fell into that category.

At the beginning of the flight an announcement was made about Switzerland’s mandatory 10-day quarantine for arrivals from the United States and a “Contact Tracing Card” was distributed to each passenger.

READ MORE: Which countries have been added to Switzerland’s quarantine list? 

These cards, which had to be filled out with everyone’s name, Swiss address and phone number, are collected on board and then given to the health authorities charged with monitoring the quarantine compliance.

This step was decided on in mid-July, following reports that most returnees from high-risk countries don’t comply with the quarantine requirement. 

There were also news reports in the Swiss media last week that the Zurich airport also collects — independently of the airlines — data on passengers arriving from a country at risk. 

However, neither Robert nor other passengers on his Zurich-bound flight, were asked to fill out such documents at the airport.

On the other hand, some passengers from the flight were interrogated by Zürich passport control agents about their reasons for coming to Switzerland.

We would like to know about your experiences returning to Switzerland from a country at risk, as well as the subsequent quarantine for future articles. Get in touch with us by emailing [email protected]

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Switzerland to cut quarantine period for vaccinated and extend current measures

Switzerland will shorten the obligatory quarantine for anyone testing positive for Covid to five days, while extending the current measures until at least March. The duration of immunity for the Covid certificate will also be shortened.

Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset gestures during a press conference.. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)
Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset gestures during a press conference.. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Switzerland on Wednesday announced a range of changes to the existing Covid measures. 

As had been widely reported ahead of the announcement, the Covid quarantine period for positive cases was shortened from the current ten days to five for vaccinated and recovered people. 

People can leave quarantine after five days, provided they are symptom free for 48 hours. Based on the new advice, it does not appear a person needs to test negative – although the government has been contacted for a confirmation on this question. 

EXPLAINED: Why did Switzerland relax Covid quarantine rules?

The quarantine change applies both to people who have tested positive and those who have had close contact with someone who has tested positive. 

“Close contact” will also be redefined. Now it will not include everyone someone with Covid has had contact with, but will be limited to the people they live with and people who had “regular and close” contact with a person who tested positive. 

The close contact quarantine will not apply to people who have had a booster in the past four months, but it will apply to those who have had two doses.

The unvaccinated will need to remain in quarantine for the original ten days. 

Cantons can decide to grant exemption to the quarantine rules. 

The duration of immunity under the rules of Switzerland’s Covid certificate will be reduced from one year to 270 days, i.e. nine months.

This is due to the belief that immunity due either to vaccination or recovery declines earlier than previously thought. 

The 270-day requirement applies to those who are fully vaccinated or to people who have previously had the virus.

This shortening of the time period for the validity of the Covid certificate will apply from February 1st, as with the EU’s rules for international travel. 

The current Covid measures, which are outlined in the link below, will also be extended. 

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s current Covid measures?

While they were set to expire on January 24th, they will now be extended until March 31st. 

The government said the extension was necessary due to the situation in the country’s hospitals. 

Amid skyrocketing infection rates, the Swiss government said it had prepared additional measures which could be implemented quickly and immediately if the situation required it. 

“Should the situation in hospitals deteriorate significantly, the Federal Council can still act swiftly by imposing stricter measures such as the closure of facilities and institutions or by limiting capacity at large-scale events, regardless of the consultation,” the government said in a press release

The government is currently in consultation with experts and the cantons about these and further measures, including tighter mask rules and a change in testing rules.

This consultation will last until the 17th of January, however those listed here are expected to apply. 

For the full list of changes announced you can visit the government site HERE.